Sunday, February 3, 2013

Five secular reasons to stay chaste — UPDATED

Lolo Jones, athlete and virgin. (©Ian Walton)
Comedian Steven Crowder has written a pretty good article in FOXNews: “A man’s top 5 reasons to grow up and get married”.  In it, Crowder makes the key points that: 1) married couples tend to make and save more than do singles and cohabitants; 2) the children of married couples tend to do much better in many areas of life than do the children of single parents, 3) married people’s sex lives tend to be much better, 4) married people are more productive economically, and 5) they live longer, healthier lives.

All of this is true, and the post itself is certainly less of a gloat-fest than was his post on waiting until the wedding night to get busy with your loved one.  But Crowder has been married for the Hollywood eternity of six months: not enough time to really understand the challenges of making a marriage last “’til death do us part”, and therefore not enough time to develop something I like to call “empathy”.  But not even when chastity was much more common (and divorce much less quotidian) did marriage automatically bring these benefits to all and sundry.  So if people take issue with the self-congratulatory tone of his writing, I can’t say I blame them.

Nevertheless, we need more couples to get married and stay married, the latter even if just for the sake of the children and avoiding that messy, traumatic and costly process called divorce.  Even more, though, we need people to get married for the right reasons, and not just to socially validate their sleeping together.  We also need people to get over the idea that the three-bedroom house in the ‘burbs and combined six-figure income somehow precedes and insures successful marriage and childrearing — it just ain’t so.


Anyone who’s read me with any regularity over the last plus-or-minus five years has seen me rail with some frequency over sexual stupidity.  I freely and ashamedly confess that I’ve been stupid myself, though with nowhere near the frequency our sex-saturated culture expects of the unmarried.  The point is, I realize that maintaining chastity in a world dedicated to getting people to boink whenever and whoever possible (thank you, David Addison!) is pretty damned difficult.  Not impossible, just difficult.

Nevertheless, sex without marriage is unwise.

First, technology fails.  You know this every time your car breaks down, every time your debit card gets refused when you have plenty of cash in your checking account, every time your computer freezes up.  Why do you have this insane expectation that birth control will work all the time every time … especially when it’s trying to prevent the body from doing what it was designed to do?  As for STD control, prophylactics just aren’t as effective as some people want you to think.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: contraceptives are for suckers.

Second, when you’re chaste, “to abort or not to abort” is no longer a question.  For women, there is no better expression of reproductive autonomy than to walk away from a sexual opportunity when you’re not ready for children.  “No” is an empowering word; “no” puts you in the driver’s seat.  For men, it simply isn’t fair or just to women to put them in such a terrible quandary, to force them into either single motherhood or a lifetime of guilt and regret, because you don’t want to be a daddy just now.  “No” is your declaration of full manhood, your ability to consider the consequences to others of your actions.  Ask any alcoholic: If you can’t say “no”, you’re not in control.

Third, the “try before you buy” plan doesn’t work.  Statistics show that couples who cohabit before marriage have higher divorce rates than do those who start living together after the wedding.  Worse, splitting up when cohabitation fails is really no less messy or painful than a divorce, even for lack of lawyer involvement … which, if there are children involved, is no longer a savings of cohabitation.  To paraphrase Yoda, “‘Try’ not!  Marry.  Or live together not.  There is no ‘try’.”

Fourth, men and women aren’t substitutes for masturbation.  Masturbation itself may be natural if by that you merely mean that it occurs among other animals, but it isn’t by definition “healthy”; in fact, there’s a negative correlation between frequency of masturbation and psychological health.  Sex in and of itself is not love; the sad truth is, you don’t even have to like the person you boink.  When marriage and (especially) childrearing are off the table, sex reduces the partners to masturbation tools regardless of conscious intent.  There are ways to physically express affection other than sex.

Last, there’s nothing a lover, or series of lovers, can teach you about sexual technique that you can’t learn in tandem with a spouse.  A person who’s experienced may be a better lover, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into being a better husband or wife.  Sex shouldn’t come with a book of records or a scoreboard.  Your partner should never feel s/he has to compete with anyone in your past; and you should never feel compelled to compare your partner with your first lover or the last person to warm your bed.

Celibacy isn’t for everyone.  That’s precisely why St. Paul recommended that such people marry and not refuse their spouses’ conjugal rights: “[Each] has his special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another” (1 Cor 7:1-9).  And when he said, “For it is better to marry than to burn,” he wasn’t writing of the fires of hell — at least I think he wasn’t.  Nor does marriage and parenthood have to be drudgery, let alone slavery; contrary to feminist groupthink, marriage exists to give mothers and children legal claims on fathers, not to subject women to second-class citizenship.

But in writing this, I’ve barely begun to touch on all the ways that sex outside of a marriage open to children has potential for wrecking your life.  Sex, in its proper context, is Man’s participation in God’s creative act, a revelation of divine Love working in our lives. 

Outside of that context, it’s just not all that.  In fact, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Update: March 3, 2012

A reader below gives us a link to WaitingTillMarriage.org, a chastity support group that's not affiliated with any particular church or religion.  If you're not married, go check it out!